Do words like “blogosphere” and “truthiness” offend you? When someone says to you, “I’m gonna hit you up fo’ sho’,” do you feel the need to hit THEM up (with your fist)? In today’s column we will explore the intense debate over the future of the English language — a topic that our generation finds, needless to say, extremely boring. So let’s not explore it. Instead, I will attempt to defend what many University students love to hate: the English major.

I will soon declare myself among the ranks of the English majors, and I’m surprised that many students scoff at the concentration. There are a lot of misconceptions that non-English majors have about the English major, such as confusing the word “misconception” with “abortion.”

One of the greatest misconceptions is: “I can’t believe there aren’t any prerequisites to the English major!”

There are currently, in fact, three prerequisites: English 297 (Introduction to Poetry), English 298 (Introduction to Literary Studies) and English 299 (Coping With Your Future: Poverty and Loneliness).

Another popular declaration, especially among students of a scientific persuasion, is: “What can you DO with an English major?”

The same thing one can do with a Biology major, or a Sociology major, or a Chemistry major, or whatever: try to get them drunk and then – no, sorry. What I meant to say was, you can do a lot. Just go to the English Department’s website (weluv2read.umich.edu) and search “careers.” Loads of alumni careers will come up — why, English majors secured jobs with such fascinating titles as “Volunteer Organic Farmer,” “Yoga Instructor” and “Elementary School Teacher.” And how do you think they got them? That’s right: the ability to quote Shakespeare.

Another argument in the non-English major’s repertoire is: “Look, I, and by ‘I’ I mean ‘my parents,’ don’t want to spend $80,000 to graduate without any job prospects.”

This seemingly insightful comment might make the layman nod his head in agreement, but the English major knows, through extensive reading, that the layman is usually wrong in most stories, and ends up dying. What most people who employ the above argument fail to realize is the abysmal state of the economy these days. Just what do you think goes through the head of an employer when he or she sees a recent graduate of the Michigan medical or law school, or someone with a degree in economics? “Oh, I’m going to hire Mr. Fancy College Kid who’s going to want a million bucks in stock options alone? I don’t think so!” But what happens when that same employer needs a janitor, or someone to feed the office goldfish? That’s when the English major will get hired, because the employer knows that the English major knows that money is not important in life. What’s important in life is experience — the experience that comes from reading and writing, thinking and traveling, philosophizing and not doing too much studying. Hopefully this experience will someday translate into a best-selling novel or, better yet, a screenplay, and — ha-ha — who’s rolling in it now?

At this point, most people should realize how wrong their assumptions about the English major were. Some, however, will continue to insist on the uselessness of the degree. These people are known as parents. And a handful of students will remain firm in their belief that declaring in English is a waste of time. I feel sorry for these people — who occasionally e-mail me — and their utter inability to write well.

Consider this message I received from “Alyssa”: “Hey, why are you an English major? Your crazy!”

Did you catch her mistake? Yes, it’s in the second sentence: “Your.” One of the hallmarks of good writing is succinctness. Brevity, especially on the Internet, is crucial. If Alyssa knew anything about prose, which of course she doesn’t, she would have known to shorten “Your” to “Ur.” If you have any sort of eye for composition, you see these mistakes all the time.

Take a look at this e-mail I received from “Bryan”: “Yo, why do you write for the Daily? There salary for columnists is terrible!”

Now, in this example one can see — oh, nothing appears wrong. My mistake, Bryan. I’m out of examples, but I hope you’ve developed a little more respect for the English major, and literature in general. Excuse me, I’m going to fo’ sho’ go read some Hemingway.

Will Grundler can be reached at wgru@umich.edu.

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